An egg-cellent replacer?

Eggs. That one simple word brings me so much joy.  I LOVE eggs.  Scrambled, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, poached, omelleted, mixing it with veg/salads/rice, fried over a crispy gluten-free toast…any concoction you can think of that would have eggs in or on it, I will devour.

Over the last year I have had to cut out a lot of foods but I refused to cut out eggs – I had read about the dangerous effects of eggs – too many will cause you cholesterol, hard-boiled will cause you constipation, non-organic will be pumped full of chemicals, organic eggs are smaller and so forth. However for some reason I never bought into the horrors of eggs as I did with other food products.  I saw them as my one thing that my digestive system couldn’t take away from me and out of sheer stubbornness refused to give them up.

Now as the market trend points towards veganism, with more and more people adopting this lifestyle –I also contemplated it. But the thought of giving up eggs was the one thing I couldn’t quite fully accept.  My mind-set had become so stuck in eggs being a saviour for me that letting go of it seemed impossible.

So I did what any other rational person would do – I googled! Searches showed me of course replacements for eggs in baking and cooking but I couldn’t seem to find an alternative to eating eggs as they were.  Then as the universe would have it, I was offered to review a product that seemed to hear my plea for non-egg eggs. It was also combatting the bad things I heard about eggs such as being cholesterol free and providing fibre as well so was definitely worth a try.

Orgran Vegan Easy Egg

Rating: 7 out of 10

Appeals to: vegans, free-from consumers.

Packaging

The product comes in a bright yellow (naturally) rectangular cardboard box, large enough to make it feel like a substantial size but yet still small enough to be able to pour/tip the product. My first impressions was that it did not look like an egg carton which made me contemplate how could I make boiled eggs from this?!  The writing on the front clearly pointed out all the free-from benefits (it’s not only egg-free but gluten-free, wheat free, dairy free, soy free and yeast free), however the box was covered in writing on all sides making it a little difficult to read the main pointers you need.  Instructions on the back of the box explaining how to make the product with graphics were very helpful.

Price

£4.45. I was kindly provided some samples but a quick search online showed me the price range and it felt quite high.  Although the packaging details that the product is equivalent to 15 eggs, it still seems vegan/free from products will continue to carry the high price tag as it’s not a mainstream lifestyle.

Delivery

The product itself is a flour-based mix. You need to add water and oil to it, to then be able to make a mixture.  This you would then cook as you would normally cook scrambled eggs, an omelette or even make a frittata or quiche.  However if you fancy boiled or poached – this obviously isn’t the answer for that!  It is as quick and easy as it is to whisk eggs.  The taste however is not quite as straight-forward, it tasted a little stringy.  On a second batch I added in some other herbs and spices which whilst covering it up could not deter from the rubbery taste.  Looking at the ingredients I could understand why there was a chewy-feel to it – with a host of stabilisers in the product it may not be the most nutritional of products but for a quick breakfast or evening meal it does the job.  Add a few spices or flavourings to it and it’s a go-to product on those days when you just don’t have enough time.  Whilst not quite tasting the same as eggs, I can see how this can be a replacer for those who don’t want to or cannot tolerate eggs.

Verdict: in a word – easy. This is a go-to quick and easy food item.  However if you’re looking for taste then it maybe doesn’t quite hit the mark.  Spice it up with herbs and flavours and it may just be enough.

Details: http://www.orgran.com/products/vegan-easy-egg-2/

I would love to hear your thoughts if you have tried this product – feel free to leave comments below.

Guest Blogger: Mrs M.

About Me

As a person with a recently diagnosed sensitive digestive system, I’m now on a path to make sure I eat well whilst still enjoying myself. Having been fearful of food, I now love finding new products, going to new restaurants to try new twists on dishes and am constantly looking for quirky items to consume.  I’m a huge supporter of simple food that is made tasty with the right combination of ingredients and more importantly enjoying your food and diet in a balanced way.  That means I always have room for my favourite item – chocolate!

 

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Collectives Boosting UK Businesses

Now is a great time to start up in business. Don’t listen to the Brexiteers and the naysayers. We are in a period of economic uncertainty and instability but that’s the point – it is uncertain so depending on how you fill your glass we could be in a positive or a negative environment. Now, I’m no Mystic Meg and I genuinely don’t know which way it will fall when we come through trade negotiations but I do know that it doesn’t mean we should give up, go home and shut up shop!

However if, like me, you err on the side of caution or even go as far as saying you’re risk averse then the current climate may mean that you change your approach to business; and that makes sense to me. Thankfully if you do think like that you’re not alone; help is at hand. This post looks at three examples of business collectives designed to boost small business inception, growth and expansion.

  • Incubate to Accumulate

Business accelerators or incubators offer start-up companies work or office space and direct funding. According to a report published by gov.uk this year there are currently 205 incubators, 163 accelerators, 11 per-accelerators, 7 virtual accelerators and 4 virtual incubators operating in the UK. Now is a great time to get involved with these start-up platforms as they’re on a rapid growth rate with just over half (54%) the number of incubators operating being created since 2011. Incubators and accelerators may still feel like a fairly new concept but for the foreseeable future they’re here to stay.

  • Sharing is Caring

northernmunkeebites.foodstars6Another fantastic example for food of using the collective to drive your business is shared commercial kitchens for food companies like FoodStars deliver. It’s a fantastic world where you can rent a commercial kitchen and avoid huge, crippling capital expense when you’re starting out. These guys are now offering facilities across Bermondsey, Bethnall Green, Vauxhall and Shoreditch so if you’re in the Greater London area and you want to start your own food delivery Empire or the next big thing in food or drink product development then it’s now really easy to do so!

  • The Power of the Crowd

Crowdfunding has received a lot of bad press in recent weeks and has been portrayed asnorthernmunkeebites.foodstars7.jpg bad investment which appears to have scared off a lot of serious investors however it’s still a very real, very viable option for start-ups. Crowdfunding has evolved in 2017 and I’m now seeing young businesses pitching for much smaller sums of money attracting city types, small business supporters and genuine fans! What could be better? So instead of giving away huge chunks of your business to ever more demanding portfolio builders, businesses are now using the power of the crowd to create fans, fans that will have a vested interest in evangelising and making your dreams work. Belting!

So that’s it: my guide for small businesses in using the collective to induce business growth, inception and expansion. As an entrepreneur you’re likely to be an independent, self-starter with all the drive in the world to do it on your own but trust me, it’s much easier to work with the collective.

Northern Munkee.

Secrets of Small Business Start-Up Success

Starting up your own business is bloody scary. It’s a huge leap of faith whether you’re jumping in feet first and leaving the relative comfort of employment or you’re living a double life and trying to cultivate your empire in your ‘spare’ time. I have a great deal of respect for anyone that takes that leap. The reason that it’s so scary is that nothing is guaranteed, despite how many of your friends down the pub think you’ve got a great idea. According to smallbusiness.co.uk 40% of small businesses are opened and closed within 5years; that’s bleak. However there is a wealth of support out there for experienced and budding entrepreneurs in the shape of literature, consultants and free government schemes. But how do you sift through all this information and concentrate it to relevant advice? That’s where I’m hoping to help.

Now the first thing to say is that there aren’t any silver bullets when it comes to business advice. I’m not in a position to say: do this one thing and I can guarantee your success. If I could I’d be a very rich man indeed! This advice is based on sifting through a lot of the available information and my own experience; don’t worry it’s presented minus the BS!

So here are my three secrets to small business start-up success:

1. Do Your Homework

northernmunkeebites.foodstars2If, like me, you have a guilty pleasure for BBC’s Dragons’ Den then you’ll be familiar with this line of advice. An uneasy amount of start-up businesses dive into a market which they know very little about but they are full of passion for. Now don’t get me wrong, passion in business is vital but misguided passion can be dangerous. Holidaying in Spain is not a good enough reason to start a business; that’s merely the seed of a business that will form the passion and resilience through the hard times. It should go without saying, but if you’re about to invest a big chunk of time and money into something you need to understand what you’re getting into. You need to understand if it’s a potential business or just a hobby. So my advice is get online, get out there, get abroad, get amongst your friends and family and get clued up!

2. Start-up for Success

I get it. One of the most exciting things about starting a business is buying lots of shiny new things; however my advice is simple: don’t. You may get guidance from some consultants who suggest that you need to be in control of the supply chain to manage your business effectively; for a start-up this is nonsense! If you can maintain quality and efficiency I would always outsource big sections of your supply chain to keep your business lean and nimble at the start to allow flexibility and ease of change. Companies such as FoodStars can provide that flexibility with a platform for start-up businesses in London by offering commercial kitchens for rent in Bethnall Green, Bermondsey, Vauxhall and Shoreditch – go and seek these guys out and save the capital expenditure for expansion plans.

3. Don’t Sell Your Soul for Sales

This point is key: YOU are the best person to sell your products or your business. I know it’s tempting to answer the calls of heavily experienced sales consultants when they sell you the dream of being able to get your product into mass distribution. Unfortunately you’re more likely to find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow than a good consultant. Even if you do stumble across the world’s best salesman they still won’t sell your business as well as you do. It’s your baby, no one will love it more than you do.

So there you have it: my three secrets of small business start-up success. No silver bullets just sound advice. Enjoy!

Northern Munkee.

Improve Your Workplace Coffee Game!

I wrote a post recently about how I was changing my coffee habits to stop punishing my taste buds and banish the bland freeze-dried rubbish in favour of proper coffee; and I’m pleased to say that I have made that change. However I’m still not coffee satisfied – I’m ashamed to admit that my coffee game at work is average to poor at best. So I need to make another stand.

When you think about a brew at work you think of a battered tea tray, chipped mugs and a shared tea spoon; not the kind of thing that’s going to make anyone leave their desk. If you’re lucky you might have a machine that was installed in the early 90s with some incompatible cartridges that produce a bitter, foamy sludge as opposed to anything that has ever been introduced to a coffee bean. Surely we don’t have to put up with this crappy coffee? Even Maccy D’s has a more impressive coffee craft than most busy workplaces.

northernmunkeebites.honestcoffee1This set me off on a mission. A mission to find a better brew. A mission to find something that would make me get up from my desk rather than bury my head in my laptop through the 3pm slump! Then I came across Honest Coffees.

Honest Coffees share my disgust (although they’re good people so probably wouldn’t use such a visceral word) at the workplace coffee scene and have made it their mission to place foamy smiles on the faces of middle management with a better quality coffee from their machines. I appreciate that there can be a stigma around a coffee fuelled day and I’m certainly not advocating creating an office environment in a caffeine frenzy but I do have a dream.

Imagine the scene: it’s month end and you’ve got a pile of ominous, looming invoices casting a shadow over your desk that need completing by yesterday; your boss has just sent you the third passive aggressive email reminding you of your inadequacies and that you haven’t realised your childhood dreams. So you push yourself back in your chair and slide over to a coffee machine that is beaming and northernmunkeebites.honestcoffeeshiny and not covered in dubious, aged stains. You push the button and wait for the unmistakable, sensual coffee aroma to envelop you as you take a few seconds to forget the world. You take the first sip of your brew and exhale as your boss’ email melts away from your memory. Going back to your desk doesn’t seem so bad now.

So finding solutions like Honest Coffees machines has given me some hope for the workplace and better still these guys pride themselves on ethical sourcing, meaning you can enjoy great-tasting coffee safe in the knowledge that it’s better for the farmers too. I’m a huge advocate of ethical sourcing to create a sustainable and realistic supply chain and this should be a big focus wherever you are.

For too long bland, unethical brews have ruled the roost in the workplace being favoured for convenience and expense amongst the overworked and underpaid. Join me in making a stand and banish the bland brew!

 

 

Free-From Fudge Fun!

As a free-from eater I have grown used to passing (also read as – missing out) on food items. Whilst there are now an abundance of free-from items available , there are still many branded goods that I cannot eat – wagon wheels, walkers crisps, cadbury’s chocolate fingers to name a few.  Alternatives are of course available, but sometimes you want the real mccoy.

However one growing trend of the free-from market is the up-take of established brands to cater for the variety of food consumers that now make up the marketplace. Many branded food manufacturers are now going the extra mile to make their popular edible products available in dairy free and/or gluten free options too.

This is great news for ‘fussy-eaters’ like myself – we actually do get to have our cake and eat it. But alongside the obvious benefit of enjoying the real deal, there is a deeper benefit to this trend.  By companies going out of their way to include free-from eaters as part of their clientele, they are making their own attempts to create a more inclusive society.  The amount of times I have felt ‘left out’ because I couldn’t enjoy the same items as friends or family from gifts or eating out are too numerous to count.  So when companies expand their range – they are doing much more than building their own business, they are giving joy to thousands of free-from consumers who have for far too long not been able to enjoy branded products.

northernmunkeebites.fudgekitchen2Fudge Kitchen – Dairy-free fudge, Dairy-free drinking fudge and sugar-free peanut brittle.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Appeals to: dairy-free consumers and fudge lovers!

Packaging

All 3 of these products come packaged slightly differently…

A selection of the dairy-free fudge in 4 different flavours came wrapped up in a luxury deep chocolate brown box – making it a perfect gift, for others or yourself. With gold lettering and minimal detail, it adds to air of mystery. Ingredients are listed on the bottom – so discreet. Each slice of fudge was individually wrapped in tissue paper, and the smell as you opened the box….sigh!

The dairy-free drinking fudge was a selection of again, different flavours, in a small boxnorthernmunkeebites.fudgekitchen3 with strips of colour dripping down the white coloured box. Pleasing to the eye and again giving off an air of luxury it would not go amiss in a gift hamper, or displayed proudly in your kitchen.  Each sachet is carefully packed inside making it easy to select which flavour you fancy.

The sugar-free peanut brittle is boxed in a light tan colour with minimalist writing. northernmunkeebites.fudgekitchen1The golden writing makes this a luxurious product but on a more accessible level.  It feels like it’s a box you would reach for when you have a few hours to yourself to indulge.

Price

£16.00 for a 4 slice dairy-free fudge box.

£10.00 for dairy-free drinking fudge

£6.50 for sugar free peanut brittle

The price points for the products are aimed at the more discerning consumer. Whilst they are appear at the higher end of the price range, these are artisan products and considering this, the price range seems fair.  What makes it fair value as well is that these products are not to be consumed in one go but rather to be enjoyed slowly and over time.  This makes the price points far more reasonable.

Delivery

Each of these products are exquisite. There’s no two ways about it – the care and craftsmanship gone into produce these products make your taste buds come alive.

Out of the 4 flavours, I have only tasted the dairy-free sea salted caramel fudge as yet, but it took a lot of willpower not to devour this in one go. The mix of crunch on the first bite with a soft centre makes this a tasting sensation. There are also pieces of sea-salt mixed within the fudge which provides different textures as  you let this sit on your tongue to melt slowly.  It surprised me this was dairy-free as the rich taste of it made me think there must be milk in it but there definitely isn’t – so there was no difference in taste of this versus a dairy-full fudge.

The dairy-free drinking fudge is no different. A rich luxurious hot drink this oozes flavour and warms the whole body – with serious contentment.  I had the cinnamon spice flavour and although its summer, it just made me wish for winter so that I can enjoy this again in front of a roaring fire!

Sugar-free peanut brittle – this was the surprise product for me. Although not a fudge-based product, the company are clearly trying to cater for different tastes.  The snap of peanut coated in a sugar-free caramel base provided me with a moor-ish new snack that had no different in taste despite using sugar alternatives.  Letting this melt in your mouth literally allows you to truly experience the different textures of crunch against gooey-ness.

Verdict: in a word – exquisite. These products are for luxury moments.  The self-indulgence of the fudge and the peanut brittle makes these ideal for treating – yourself or others.  What makes these extra special is the fact that you can consume these knowing you are not missing out on taste but can experience the same delight as a dairy-free consumer.

Details: http://www.fudgekitchen.co.uk/index.asp

I would love to hear your thoughts if you have tried this product – feel free to leave comments below.

Guest Blogger: Mrs. M.

About Me

As a person with a recently diagnosed sensitive digestive system, I’m now on a path to make sure I eat well whilst still enjoying myself. Having been fearful of food, I now love finding new products, going to new restaurants to try new twists on dishes and am constantly looking for quirky items to consume.  I’m a huge supporter of simple food that is made tasty with the right combination of ingredients and more importantly enjoying your food and diet in a balanced way.  That means I always have room for my favourite item – chocolate!

 

Ooh-La-La Tea Biscuits!

As a gluten-free eater, there are some things I really miss. One of those is dunking biscuits into tea.  There is nothing better or more soothing that timing the moment of how long you dunk before the biscuit becomes soggy and drops!

When I became gluten-free this appeared to be one of the perks I had to give up. People think it’s the food we miss, but sometimes it’s the memories and actions associated with the foods that are the biggest losses.  I did of course find other things to replace with tea/biscuit dunking including the bliss of dunking chocolate to let it melt over my fingers, but there was always something missing as it wasn’t a biscuit.

Of course the market must have clocked on to this fact as there then arrived an abundance of gluten free treats, including biscuits and the return of tea/biscuit dunking was back. Alas, these biscuits just were not up to the scratch, they tasted like cardboard and even worse, the seconds to dunking were longer so you could never time it just right.  Plus so many of these gluten-free treats were just round balls of sugar and taste was compromised.

Then popped up another market – healthier free from treats. Lower sugar, more fibre, healthier ways of baking etc.  Whilst I scoffed again at some of the products, a few caught my eye.  Although I have made a personal decision to cut down on treats generally, it does feel nice to know that when I do want to have a healthier gluten free treat, there’s an increasing market of naturally good treats where companies are genuinely trying to look out for health AND focus on taste too.

northernmunkeebites.808rhythm1 Rhythm108 Ooh-la-la Tea Biscuits – Coconut Cookie

Rating: 9 out of 10

Appeals to: free-from lovers, healthy-conscious eaters and tea/biscuit dunkers

Packaging

These packs of biscuits screamed out to me. Whilst I didn’t source these from supermarket shelves (I was kindly provided with some samples) I was overjoyed when I opened the box as they were so colourful! The bright pinks, turquoises and pastel colours completely played to colour palette and if I were to see them on the shelves then yes definitely I would be attracted to them.  The material of the packaging itself was good – it felt like I would be purchasing purchased a high quality product, plus was easy to open – always one of my bear-bugs. I then saw that the packaging was home compostable so for those who are environmentally conscious – another win. I was also happy to see simple ingredients listed on the packet in an easy-to-read manner. A big tick on all fronts re packaging.

Price

£2.99 – I was kindly provided some samples but a quick search online showed me the price range and I was impressed.  So impressed I have purchased these again.  The sharing packets lasted a few days in my house, despite having a husband who scoffs biscuits like they’re grapes, so definitely value for money.

Delivery

These are moor-ish with a capital M! I could not stop myself from snacking on these.  Whilst they are still snacks, I reasoned with myself they are healthier treats so allowed myself to just eat as many as I could in one go! The other huge win for me was that these were not only gluten free, but also dairy free and refined sugars and using organic ingredients – for a fussy eater like me, this was an item I could eat safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t have reactions later.  I truly did indulge, so much that I had to hide a packet of these so that my husband wouldn’t finish them.  Even he could not notice any difference between gluten biscuits and these gluten-free biscuits and was quick to keep on taking them.The taste was spot on – exactly what a coconut biscuit should taste like – crumbly yet softened when dunked in tea.  Plus the flavouring of coconut was just right for me, I love coconut and can’t get enough but didn’t feel this overwhelmed the whole taste.

Verdict: in a word – delicious! These are definitely my new to-go biscuits now. They hit all the right spots for free-from AND non free-from consumers as well as just getting the taste bang on.  Not only were they healthy but they gave me back one of my greatest missed moments – tea/biscuit dunking.

Details: https://www.rhythm108.com/

I would love to hear your thoughts if you have tried this product – feel free to leave comments below.

Guest Blogger: Mrs. M.

About Me

As a person with a recently diagnosed sensitive digestive system, I’m now on a path to make sure I eat well whilst still enjoying myself. Having been fearful of food, I now love finding new products, going to new restaurants to try new twists on dishes and am constantly looking for quirky items to consume.  I’m a huge supporter of simple food that is made tasty with the right combination of ingredients and more importantly enjoying your food and diet in a balanced way.  That means I always have room for my favourite item – chocolate!

 

 

 

Has The Artisan Bubble Burst?

OK, so this post is a little uneasy for me to write because it’s challenging everything I love about the modern food industry but I fear that the artisan bubble might have burst!

northernmunkeebites.artisanfoodfestThis fear was first aroused after a disappointing visit a couple of weeks ago to, what was, my favourite food festival in the calendar. I bounced along through the sea of marquees with Mrs Munkee full of enthusiasm, gusto and a tingling palate ready for some fine food foraging. To my dismay all I was met with was wallpaper: gin, cheese, gin, uncovered cakes, gin, brownies, pickles, gin, pickles, pickles, gin, cakes, cider, jam, big corporate stand, big corporate stand, jewellery (?), massage tent (?), gin, tea, yoga (?) and a few more gin tents. Now you might be looking at that list and be thinking: ‘well, that sounds like a belting day out…what’s this chap’s game?!’ and I could forgive you for thinking that but where have you been for the last five years?! It’s all good stuff but give me something new! Food festivals used to be about discovering the next trend and challenging your taste buds and perceptions, now I struggle to tell them apart from what’s on the shelves of mainstream retailers. Does that mean that mainstream retailers have upped their game or does it mean that startisans have run out of road?

Farm shops, delis and food halls have also lost their way in my opinion. They used tonorthernmunkeebites.artisanfoodhall represent the little guy (or gal) making a go on their own and real show of local produce and talent. Now they might as well wear badges saying ‘Every Little Helps’.

I’ve written in the past about the unique market conditions that have afforded small businesses the opportunity to thrive in the food industry but is this a sign that the opportunity is waning? Have the initial visionaries graduated from standing in fields and facing the elements of British summer time in wellies and checked shirts to seated behind large oak desks in sought after London-locations adorned by Savile Row? Don’t allow me to mislead you, it’s fantastic that small businesses have earned their stripes in the farmer’s markets and progressed and built businesses that can compete in the tough Top 4 Retail environments but why has the pipeline dried up?

northernmunkeebites.artisanmarketCould it  be that this once empty space has been occupied and strangled by big multi-national corporations aware of the need to act on trends? Big manufacturers are now either investing into capex and developing their own ‘artisan’ ranges or buying up emerging businesses and welcoming them into the fold. This shift has sprouted a post-modern foodie who scoffs at the words ‘artisan’ or ‘artisanal’. Even the word has lost its way and become pastiche.

This post has been difficult to write because I type it with exasperation. I have gone through a real pyschomachia (thanks to my A-Level English teacher for increasing my verbosity with that word!) writing this and that’s because I feel like I’m in mourning. It’s less of a light bulb moment and more of a dimmer switch being gently turned down from light to dark.

But surely this can’t be it? Who can the revolution look to for their new champion? Wenorthernmunkeebites.artisanrevolution‘ve done all the innovating now and it’s out of our system and we should just be happy with bacon jam and popcorn. No. I’m not having it. If you’re a small business reading this hear my plea: don’t stop the revolution just because some of the leaders have left; keep challenging and exploring!

Northern Munkee.

Any thoughts on my wee rant? Pop them below whether you love or hate it because sharing is caring.